[Congressional Bills 106th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[S. 2699 Introduced in Senate (IS)]







106th CONGRESS
  2d Session
                                S. 2699

   To strengthen the authority of the Federal Government to protect 
individuals from certain acts and practices in the sale and purchase of 
 social security numbers and social security account numbers, and for 
                            other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                   IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

                              June 8, 2000

Mrs. Feinstein introduced the following bill; which was read twice and 
                  referred to the Committee on Finance

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
   To strengthen the authority of the Federal Government to protect 
individuals from certain acts and practices in the sale and purchase of 
 social security numbers and social security account numbers, and for 
                            other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Social Security Number Protection 
Act of 2000''.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

    Congress makes the following findings:
            (1) The inappropriate sale or purchase of social security 
        numbers is a significant factor in a growing range of illegal 
        activities, including fraud, identity theft, and, in some 
        cases, stalking and other violent crimes.
            (2) While financial institutions, health care providers, 
        and other entities have often used social security numbers to 
        confirm the identity of an individual, the sale or purchase of 
        these numbers often facilitates the commission of criminal 
        activities, and also can result in serious invasions of 
        individual privacy.
            (3) The Federal Government requires virtually every 
        individual in the United States to obtain and maintain a social 
        security number in order to pay taxes, to qualify for social 
        security benefits, or to seek employment. An unintended 
        consequence of these requirements is that social security 
        numbers have become tools that can be used to facilitate crime, 
        fraud, and invasions of the privacy of the individuals to whom 
        the numbers are assigned. Because the Federal Government 
        created and maintains this system, and because the Federal 
        Government does not permit individuals to exempt themselves 
        from those requirements, it is appropriate for the Federal 
        Government to take steps to stem the abuse of this system.
            (4) A social security number is simply a sequence of 
        numbers. In no meaningful sense can the number itself impart 
        knowledge or ideas. Persons do not sell or transfer such 
        numbers in order to convey any particularized message, nor to 
        express to the purchaser any ideas, knowledge, or thoughts.
            (5) A social security number does not contain, reflect, or 
        convey any publicly significant information or concern any 
        public issue. The sale of such numbers in no way facilitates 
        uninhibited, robust, and wide-open public debate, and 
        restrictions on such sale would not affect public debate.
            (6) No one should seek to profit from the sale of social 
        security numbers in circumstances that create a substantial 
        risk of physical, emotional, or financial harm to the 
        individuals to whom those numbers are assigned.
            (7) Consequently, Congress should enact legislation that 
        will offer individuals assigned such numbers necessary 
        protection from the sale and purchase of social security 
        numbers in circumstances that might facilitate unlawful conduct 
        or that might otherwise likely result in unfair and deceptive 
        practices.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:
            (1) Commission.--The term ``Commission'' means the Federal 
        Trade Commission.
            (2) Person.--The term ``person'' means any individual, 
        partnership, corporation, trust, estate, cooperative, 
        association, or any other entity.
            (3) Sale.--
                    (A) In general.--The term ``sale'' means obtaining, 
                directly or indirectly, anything of value in exchange 
                for a social security number or social security account 
                number.
                    (B) Exclusions.--Such term does not include--
                            (i) the submission of such a number as part 
                        of the process for applying for any type of 
                        government benefit or program (such as a grant 
                        or loan application or a welfare or other 
                        public assistance program); or
                            (ii) transfers of such a number as part of 
                        a data matching program under the Computer 
                        Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (5 
                        U.S.C. 552a note; Public Law 100-503; 102 Stat. 
                        2507).
            (4) Purchase.--
                    (A) In general.--The term ``purchase'' means 
                providing directly or indirectly, anything of value in 
                exchange for a social security number or social 
                security account number.
                    (B) Exclusions.--Such term does not include--
                            (i) the submission of such a number as part 
                        of the process for applying for any type of 
                        government benefit or program (such as a grant 
                        or loan application or a welfare or other 
                        public assistance program); or
                            (ii) transfers of such a number as part of 
                        a data matching program under the Computer 
                        Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (5 
                        U.S.C. 552a note; Public Law 100-503; 102 Stat. 
                        2507).
            (5) Social security number; social security account 
        number.--The terms ``social security number'' and ``social 
        security account number'' have the meaning given those terms in 
        section 208(c) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 408(c)).
            (6) State.--The term ``State'' means any State of the 
        United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the 
Northern Mariana Islands, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, 
American Samoa, and any territory or possession of the United States.

SEC. 4. REGULATION OF THE SALE AND PURCHASE OF SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS 
              AND SOCIAL SECURITY ACCOUNT NUMBERS.

    (a) Prohibition.--It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or 
purchase a social security number or a social security account number 
in a manner that violates a regulation promulgated by the Commission 
under subsection (b).
    (b) Regulations.--
            (1) In general.--The Commission, after consultation with 
        the Commissioner of Social Security, the Department of Justice, 
        and other Federal agencies as the Commission deems appropriate, 
        shall promulgate regulations restricting the sale and purchase 
        of social security numbers and social security account numbers 
        and any unfair or deceptive acts or practices in connection 
        with the sale and purchase of social security numbers and 
        social security account numbers.
            (2) Requirements.--
                    (A) Restrictions and conditions.--
                            (i) In general.--In promulgating such 
                        regulations, the Commission shall impose 
                        restrictions and conditions on the sale and 
                        purchase of social security numbers and social 
                        security account numbers that are no broader 
                        than necessary--
                                    (I) to provide reasonable 
                                assurances that social security numbers 
                                and social security account numbers 
                                will not be used to commit or 
                                facilitate fraud, deception, or crime; 
                                and
                                    (II) to prevent an undue risk of 
                                bodily, emotional, or financial harm to 
                                an individual.
                            (ii) Required considerations for prevention 
                        of undue risk.--For purposes of clause (i)(II), 
                        the Commission shall consider--
                                    (I) the nature, likelihood, and 
                                severity of the anticipated harm;
                                    (II) the nature, likelihood, and 
                                extent of any benefits that could be 
                                realized from the sale or purchase of 
                                the numbers; and
                                    (III) any other relevant factors.
                    (B) Exceptions.--The regulations promulgated under 
                this subsection shall include exceptions which permit 
                the sale and purchase of social security numbers and 
                social security account numbers--
                            (i) to the extent necessary for law 
                        enforcement or national security purposes;
                            (ii) to the extent necessary for public 
                        health purposes;
                            (iii) to the extent necessary in emergency 
                        situations to protect the health or safety of 
                        one or more individuals;
                            (iv) to the extent necessary for research 
                        conducted for the purpose of advancing public 
                        knowledge, on the condition that the researcher 
                        provides adequate assurances that--
                                    (I) the social security numbers or 
                                social security account numbers will 
                                not be used to harass, target, or 
                                publicly reveal information concerning 
                                any identifiable individual;
                                    (II) information about identifiable 
                                individuals obtained from the research 
                                will not be used to make decisions that 
                                directly affect the rights, benefits, 
                                or privileges of specific individuals; 
                                and
                                    (III) the researcher has in place 
                                appropriate safeguards to protect the 
                                privacy and confidentiality of any 
                                information about identifiable 
                                individuals;
                            (v) to the extent consistent with an 
                        individual's voluntary and affirmative written 
                        consent to the sale or purchase of a social 
                        security number or a social security account 
                        number that has been assigned to that 
                        individual; and
                            (vi) under other appropriate circumstances 
                        as the Commission may determine are consistent 
                        with the findings set forth in section 2 and 
                        the principles set forth in subparagraph (A).
    (c) Rulemaking.--
            (1) In general.--Not later than 1 year after the date of 
        enactment of this Act, the Commission shall promulgate the 
        regulations required under subsection (b) in accordance with 
        section 553 of title 5, United States Code.
            (2) Effective date.--Subsection (a) and the regulations 
        promulgated under subsection (b) and section 208 of the Social 
        Security Act (42 U.S.C. 408) (as amended by section 5) shall 
        take effect 30 days after the date on which the final 
        regulations issued under subsection (b) are published in the 
        Federal Register.
    (d) Enforcement.--Any violation of a regulation promulgated under 
subsection (b) shall be treated in the same manner as a violation of a 
rule promulgated under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade 
Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B)) regarding unfair or deceptive 
acts or practices.
    (e) Administration and Applicability of Act.--
            (1) The commission.--
                    (A) In general.--The Commission shall prevent any 
                person from violating this section, and any regulation 
                promulgated thereunder, in the same manner, by the same 
                means, and with the same jurisdiction, powers, and 
                duties as though all applicable terms and provisions of 
                the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.) 
                were incorporated into and made a part of this Act.
                    (B) Application of penalties, privileges, and 
                immunities.--Any person who violates such a regulation 
                shall be subject to the penalties and entitled to the 
                privileges and immunities provided in the Federal Trade 
                Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.) as though all 
                applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade 
                Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 41 et seq.) were incorporated 
                into and made a part of this Act.
                    (C) Rule of construction.--Nothing contained in 
                this Act shall be construed to limit the authority of 
                the Commission under any other provision of law.
            (2) Actions by states.--
                    (A) In general.--In any case in which the Attorney 
                General of a State has reason to believe that an 
                interest of the residents of that State has been or is 
                threatened or adversely affected by an act or practice 
                that violates any regulation of the Commission 
                promulgated under subsection (b), the State, as parens 
                patriae, may bring a civil action on behalf of the 
                residents of the State in a district court of the 
                United States of appropriate jurisdiction, to--
                            (i) enjoin that act or practice;
                            (ii) enforce compliance with the 
                        regulation;
                            (iii) obtain damages, restitution, or other 
                        compensation on behalf of residents of the 
                        State; or
                            (iv) obtain such other legal and equitable 
                        relief as the district court may consider to be 
                        appropriate.
                Before filing an action under this paragraph, the 
                Attorney General of the State involved shall provide to 
                the Commission and to the Attorney General of the 
                United States a written notice of that action and a 
                copy of the complaint for that action. If the Attorney 
                General of the State involved determines that it is not 
                feasible to provide such notice and copy before the 
                filing of the action, the Attorney General of such 
                State shall provide the written notice and the copy of 
                the complaint to the Commission and to the Attorney 
                General of the United States as soon as practicable 
                after the filing of the complaint.
                    (B) Right to intervene.--Upon receipt of a notice 
                under subparagraph (A), the Commission and the Attorney 
                General of the United States each shall have the 
                right--
                            (i) to move to stay the action, pending the 
                        final disposition of a pending Federal matter, 
                        as described in subparagraph (C);
                            (ii) to intervene in the action that is the 
                        subject of the notice;
                            (iii) upon so intervening, to be heard on 
                        all matters arising under the action; and
                            (iv) to file petitions for appeal.
                    (C) Prohibition on state action.--If the Attorney 
                General has instituted a criminal proceeding or the 
                Commission has instituted a civil action for a 
                violation of this Act or of any regulations promulgated 
                under this Act, no State may, during the pendency of 
                such proceeding or action, bring an action under this 
                section against any defendant named in the criminal 
                proceeding or civil action for any violation of this 
                Act that is alleged in that proceeding or action.
                    (D) Rule of construction.--For purposes of bringing 
                any civil action under subparagraph (A), nothing in 
                this Act shall be construed to prevent an Attorney 
                General of a State from exercising the powers conferred 
                on that Attorney General by the laws of that State to 
                conduct investigations, administer oaths and 
                affirmations, or compel the attendance of witnesses or 
                the production of documentary and other evidence.
                    (E) Venue; service of process.--Any action brought 
                under this section may be brought in any district court 
                of the United States that meets applicable requirements 
                relating to venue under section 1391 of title 28, 
                United States Code. In an action brought under this 
                section, process may be served in any district in which 
                the defendant is an inhabitant or may be found.

SEC. 5. CRIMINAL SANCTIONS UNDER THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT.

    Section 208 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 408) is amended--
            (1) in subsection (a)(8), by striking ``or compels the 
        disclosure of'' and inserting ``, compels the disclosure of, or 
        knowingly sells or purchases''; and
            (2) in subsection (c)--
                    (A) by striking ``Any'' and inserting ``(1) Any''; 
                and
                    (B) by adding at the end the following new 
                paragraph:
    ``(2)(A) For purposes of subsection (a)(8)--
            ``(i) the term `sells' means obtains, directly or 
        indirectly, anything of value in exchange for a social security 
        number or a social security account number; and
            ``(ii) the term `purchases' means provides, directly or 
        indirectly, anything of value in exchange for a social security 
        number or a social security account number.
    ``(B) Such terms do not include the submission of a social security 
number or a social security account number as part of the process for 
applying for any type of government benefit or program (such as a grant 
or loan application or a welfare or other public assistance program) or 
transfers of such a number as part of a data matching program under the 
Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (5 U.S.C. 552a 
note; Public Law 100-503; 102 Stat. 2507).''.
                                 <all>